Who Is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá? 1
On June 2, 1912, at the Church of the Ascension in New York, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked a question that got to the heart of how he saw himself. A woman asked: “What relation do you sustain to the founder of your belief? Are you his successor in the same manner as the Pope of Rome?”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was neither a priest, nor an ecclesiastical leader, nor a figure to be worshipped. His father, Bahá’u’lláh, in his Will and Testament, gave ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sole authority to interpret his teachings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained what this meant to an audience in America on December 2, 1912: “To ensure unity and agreement [Bahá’u’lláh] has entered into a Covenant with all the people of the world, including the interpreter and explainer of His teachings, so that no one may interpret or explain the religion of God according to his own view or opinion and thus create a sect founded upon his individual understanding … .”
Bahá’u’lláh appointed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to ensure that his religion would never splinter into competing sects, as had happened to every other major faith. His name, literally, means “servant of Bahá.”
New York City 2
On Sunday, July 7, the New York Times carried an article headed, “Billion Dollar Subways World’s Biggest Undertaking.”
When one of the inquirers of Greek background asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to accompany Him to a park outside the city where his friends were waiting to ask questions, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went with him. In the subway He said, “‘Man’s nature must attain an inclination to ascend and not to descend.’”
Early that week ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the Museum of Natural History and saw the enormous model of a whale. He commented, as Juliet Thompson recalled on July 12, “He could hold seventy Jonahs!” 3
Establishing the truth of all of the Manifestations of God 4
When the Master entered the park, He sat on the grass and those who wished to meet Him came to Him.
Much of the time was spent listening to a translation of a long article that appeared in today’s issue of The Sun concerning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk at a church. The reporter had been present when the address was given and had published the translation, adding a brief history of the Cause. In his article, he emphasized the force of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s reasoning in establishing the truth of all of the Manifestations of God, and in particular of Islam and this mighty Cause.
The newspaper was sent to the Assemblies in the East so they would be informed of the influence of the Cause and the prestige of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. In addition to such articles and comments in the newspapers of many cities, both Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís wrote eulogies and poems in praise of the Master. Everyone was full of praise for Him, which demonstrates the influence of the Cause in the West. There were even short, sweet poems written in English about His manners and mode of speech.
- Sockett, Robert. “Who Is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá?” 239 Days in America, 7 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/07/who-is-abdul-baha/. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 108-109. [return]
- Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 329, https://bahai-library.com/thompson_diary&chapter=4. [return]
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=5#section104. [return]